Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The War on Facebook

My desk has lately seen a plethora of material relating to the nefariousness of social networks.

The current issues of my magazine subscriptions to The American Conservative, Chronicles, and Modern Reformation all have either cover stories or prominent articles about the downsides of social networking. My first blog entry for Young American for Liberty dealt with a new Missouri law that aims to police teacher-student communication on Facebook. After the fallout from the Anthony Weiner scandal, it looks like the new bogeyman is social networking.

It’s fashionable right now to blame the various social networks for current lapses in morality and any other social ills we might perceive. This isn’t too surprising. Whenever a new innovation is used to commit an ancient crime, the crime itself is overlooked and the new thing is what is scandalized. Mass murder is committed with an assault rifle and the gun controllers scream that assault rifles must be banned, ignoring the fact that it took a murderer to operate the weapon in the first place. Technology is only as dangerous as the people who use it.

Anthony Weiner’s problem wasn’t that Twitter tricked him into tweeting that lewd picture. The crime was the congressman’s actions, not the avenue through which he committed it. After all, is there a difference in the morality of it if Weiner had been a congressman twenty years ago and he snapped a Polaroid of his . . . you know, and sent it in the mail?

Some of the recent criticism of Facebook and Twitter is relevant and thoughtful. Ours is a narcissistic culture and Facebook has the ability to feed it. Stephen B. Tippens Jr.’s article for The American Conservative concedes that some social networking is good, and I agree, but our eternal narcissism is enslaving us to our computers and cellphones. As he puts it, “couples . . . date their cellphones instead of each other.” It’s only a little hyperbolic to say that everyone between the ages of thirteen and thirty is attached to their mobile device.

But Mark Zuckerberg is a convenient scapegoat.

The inventor of Facebook couldn’t have possibly expected that the little website he concocted in his Harvard dormitory would encompass over half a billion users and make him filthy rich. The irony is that a socially-awkward computer hacker created a website that would digitally bring the world together but also isolate us from one another. In other words, it’s made us more like Mark Zuckerberg.

We might have 500 “friends,” but do we actually know more than a handful of them? It’s true that heterosexual marriage is in the toilet and we don’t know our neighbors, but these were problems before anyone ever thought of Facebook.

In Chronicles (not online), Catharine Savage Brosman sees parallels to the Soviet Union in the erosion of privacy but that isn’t quite apples to apples. The totalitarian USSR robbed its people of their freedom and privacy.

Big Brother has certainly taken privacy away from us but with innovations like Facebook, we’re handing the rest of it over willingly. Through social media we show pictures of ourselves, we tell the world what we like, and we announce when we’ll be home, as if more than a handful of people who see it will actually care. American culture is dead and on Facebook we flaunt our vacuity.

But for the record, Facebook, or any other particular iteration, isn’t the problem. People are the problem: stupid, narcissistic people. Facebook and the other social media are just further examples that anything new and innovative can be enjoyed and serve a worthwhile purpose if people use it responsibly.

Much has been made about the role of social media in Iran’s so-called Green Revolution, the Arab Spring, and more recently, the riots in the UK. Undoubtedly there will be pushes made by the governing class of busybodies to begin policing Facebook in the name of security, of course.

When that happens, watch out. All the wonders of the social media revolution may have simply made the job of the surveillance state all that much easier.

Norway Feels Blowback and Conservatives Feel the Heat

*From the cutting room floor of The Humble Libertarian (originally composed July 28, 2011)

The July 22 Norway attacks perpetrated by Anders Behring Breivik that killed nearly 100 children at a political summer camp and a government building has reawakened the paranoia of the thought controllers on the Left that may be igniting a new cultural war against conservatives.

On January 8 of this year, Jared Loughner killed six people in Tucson, Arizona and critically injured Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Almost before the bodies hit the ground, Paul Krugman of The New York Times sat as judge, jury, and executioner of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck as the depraved masterminds who inspired Loughner to go on a killing spree. Others joined the dog pile but as details about the young man’s “ideology” surfaced, the case against Palin et al was dropped.

Breivik’s impetus for murder, it appears, was a reaction to what he identified as the “Islamification” of Europe, multiculturalism, and open borders. His actions were undoubtedly a terroristic crime but the people Breivik shot are just as significant as the people he didn’t.

While Muslims certainly stuck in Breivik’s craw, and he apparently cited some of America’s professional anti-jihadists like Robert Spencer and Pam Geller in his infamous manifesto, he didn’t kill any Muslims as far as anyone has reported. His targets were children at a political summer camp held by Norway’s Labor Party and Norway’s three-time prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. His real aim was clearly directed at the governing class, not Muslims. His operation was blowback for Europe’s decades of enforced multiculturalism.

No one Left or Right condones the deed done by Breivik but liberals still leapt for joy that they got to dust off the Loughner playbook. Their objective in this aftermath was to silence any dissent in the Breivik narrative. Not only must the Norwegian’s actions be condemned but his grievances as well.

Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan wrote, “[a]wful as this atrocity was, native born and homegrown terrorism is not the macro-threat to the continent.

"That threat comes from a burgeoning Muslim presence in a Europe that has never known mass immigration, its failure to assimilate, its growing alienation, and its sometime sympathy for Islamic militants and terrorists. . . .

"As for a climactic conflict between a once-Christian West and an Islamic world that is growing in numbers and advancing inexorably into Europe for the third time in 14 centuries, on this one, Breivik may be right.”

Naturally, Thought Police like ThinkProgress and Daily Kos were incensed and dragged out old bigotry cards and called for Buchanan’s head. Of course, what angered them is not that Buchanan defended the actions of a murderer, which he didn’t, but that he questioned some of the highest articles of the liberal faith. The belief that maybe Breivik had a reason to gripe does not excuse his actions. It only explains them and this is lost on liberals.

It might be offensive to say that Muslim communities in countries that are not traditionally Muslim have caused friction. But the people of Europe were also not consulted about these policies of open borders and multiculturalism so it shouldn’t be surprising that somebody would eventually have something to say about it.

The lion’s share of the attention has focused on the sympathy Breivik had with the likes of the aforementioned Pam Geller and Robert Spencer who do peddle in fear-mongering and paranoia. Not to be outdone, over at National Review Online, another professional anti-jihadist, Andrew McCarthy, used this tragedy as an excuse to not apologize for selling his own brand of Muslims Under The Bed. Those who should be chastened for their sensationalism have let us know that they are reflecting on nothing and are refusing to look beneath the surface.

Entirely dismissing Breivik’s motivations along with his actions does no more favors than entirely dismissing the grievances of the jihadists. In each instance it oversimplifies a complex problem.

Murdering children is certainly no way to protest despicable government policies. But post-Norway, will there be any discussion on the American Right that penetrates deeper than the talking points of FrontPageMag but indicates that the real culprit might just be the bankrupt welfare state?